Seller Boycott Fails To Impress eBay

    February 25, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Several times in the past, eBay sellers protested changes in site policies with boycotts. Though sellers received more attention this time, they had the same result in effecting a change: zero.

eBay Logo eBay Logo
(Photo Credit: Ebay)

The impact of the eBay seller boycott comes down to a they said/they said kind of argument. Sellers claim a multi-million listing downturn during the boycott week, while the company claims it had no effect.

At one point, sellers boycotting eBay due to an increase in Final Value fees claimed a drop to 12 million listings would represent a victory. One third party count at DealsCart found a low of some 13.5 million listings on one day last week.

eBay shrugged off the boycott without comment, other than to claim the action had no effect. We don’t see that as being completely true, since thanks to the Internet this boycott received significant attention leading into its run.

Ultimately it played out in the way we believed it would. EBay isn’t going to shift out of a volume-driven model it wants to engage, by rewarding bigger sellers with generous fee discounts.

There could be a Wal-Mart way of thinking in place at eBay’s San Jose HQ. The world’s largest retailer makes a lot of money in volume at its brick and mortar stores. For eBay to gain a similar bottom line, they have to scale upwards.

Many of our readers generously commented on our earlier thoughts about the start of the boycott. One commenter claimed the boycott had the desired outcome:


I’m technically not in the boycott, because even if eBay changes the rules, I’m not coming back. I have abandoned the account and when the 180 mandnatory waiting days have passed, it will dissappear. That’s $50-$80 per month they’ve lost out on and I wasn’t that active of a seller. To our boycott delight, many of the sellers that are leaving eBay are the kilobuck powersellers. THAT is what will hurt eBay the most.


Another commenter embraced those departures:


Goodbye boycotters, and good riddance. I’ll enjoy taking your customers.


And yet another commenter suggested the fee increase would go toward offsetting outgoing CEO Meg Whitman’s ill-fated purchase of Skype. Zing!

We were impressed at the number of people who cited how they bootstrapped their ecommerce sites after departing eBay, not to mention the number of suggestions for online auction alternatives. They voted with their feet and substantial action in response to conditions at eBay they found less than desirable.

Boycotts come and go whenever eBay makes a change. We said it before and we’ll say it again: eBay saw minimal impact from the latest one. Faced with another boycott, eBay dropped its listing fees with a one-day special in advance.

Think about that for a second. Boycotters threatened to deprive eBay of business. EBay responded by giving up fee income on top of whatever impact the boycott could generate. If that didn’t reinforce the message of eBay’s shift in strategy, nothing else will.